POLITICS
11/23/2011 04:51 pm ET

Buddy Roemer, GOP Presidential Candidate, Debates Capitalism With 'Scuffy' Occupy Activists

WASHINGTON -- The Occupy Wall Street crowd may "smell different" and be "a little scuffy" to Buddy Roemer, but the long-shot Republican presidential candidate was more than happy to debate the merits of the capitalist system with protesters at an Occupy DC encampment Wednesday.

"I like young people. I like to listen to them," the former Louisiana governor and congressman told The Huffington Post before walking to D.C.'s McPherson Square, where several dozen occupiers remain camped out.

"I told the other Republican candidates, 'Listen, listen -- they're saying something we oughta hear. They're saying that the few at the top gets the best of America, and everybody [else] gets what's left over,'" Roemer said.

The occupiers in McPherson Square seemed to agree with that assessment, but then they went all Marxist labor theory of value on Roemer, who is also a banker.

"Where does profit come from?" asked occupier Mike Golash.

"From our labor and our brains," answered Roemer, agreeing in part.

"It comes from us, and someone else gets it, and that's unfair," said Golash, who doesn't just want to debate issues but seeks to upend the whole system.

"You want to abolish it, I want to reform it," Roemer answered pleasantly, in a marked contrast to Republicans like Newt Gingrich, who complained recently that protesters should "get a job, right after you get a bath."

Other Republicans have accused the movement of spawning rape, murder and assault.

Roemer, who calls himself economically conservative, insists that Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party come from the same basic place of anger at a system corrupted by the unchecked influence of special interest money.

"I think the Tea Party is onto something -- special favors for special friends," said Roemer. "Hell, that's what Occupy Washington D.C. is saying. They're saying the same thing!"

And he doesn't mind if they're a bit rough around the edges.

"They look different, they smell different. The Occupy movement is a little scuffy, but I can remember scuffy kids that turned the nation around on civil rights. I can remember scuffy kids that turned America around on the Vietnam War," Roemer said. "We ought to listen to these kids."

Ryan Grim and Arthur Delaney contributed additional reporting to this story.

Michael McAuliff covers politics and Congress for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.

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